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Thread September 2, 2017 editorial: comments

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1 September 2, 2017 editorial: comments

Eyes Wide Shut

Back in 2009, during an interview with guitarist Derek Trucks, he told me that if it were up to him, the audience at his shows would just close their eyes and listen. For him, stage theatrics are just a distraction.

Fast forward to last week, when I interviewed producer/engineer Dave Isaac (Bruno Mars, Prince, Eric Clapton, Marcus Miller, and many others) for a story that will be in Audiofanzine later this month. He said he finds it quite helpful when mixing to close his eyes periodically and visualize the soundstage and other aspects of the music.

I tried that the next time I was working on a mix, and it was an astonishing experience. When I closed my eyes, the soundstage became vivid and defined, even a little wider and deeper.

That got me thinking about concerts and the multiple visual components that are often part of the experience. Flashing lights, gaudy costumes, onstage dancers and smoke machines, are standard fare at pop shows. Sometimes the visuals get even more extreme. I remember going to see Blink-182, and drummer Travis Barker played a portion of the show upside down in a cage suspended above the audience.

You could make a case that in a lot of situations, theatrics like that are used because the music isn’t compelling enough on its own. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying stage shows don’t add to a live performance, a lot of times they do. But for me, if the songs are secondary to the spectacle, then it’s theater, not music.  You can tell the difference by taking the Derek Trucks test: Close your eyes and just listen.

To bring it back around to mixing, if you haven’t tried the “eyes closed” method that Isaac suggested, give it a shot. (I would say that it’s a real “eye-opening” experience, but in this case, that’s not an appropriate choice of words.) It will give you a new perspective on your mix, and that’s always a good thing.

Excellent advice. I'm often on audition panels for various events in Southern California/
I never look at the performer I don't want to be influenced by theatrics or good looks.
BTW often time auditions are 1 min and in some cases 30 seconds if we are running late
You have to have something to give us a reason to listen to you right out the gate.

"Eyes Closed" seems to be a lost art when it comes to listening your soundscape. I work at a church with the sound folks and am constantly reminding them to go out into the audience and listen to the sound from many different locations within the room so they have a much better understanding of how the sound is playing in the sanctuary. Especially when there are bodies in the room because that changes the sonic dynamic even more so then when the room is empty.

Also, if you go back to the groups who were making music back in the 60s/70s/80s, you can hear that "eyes closed" ethic in their music. One of my most favorite groups, Styx, did one of their best known songs, "Come Sail Away", by doing a lot of the soundscape changes with their eyes closed using their ears in the studio. There are two different versions of this, the one you have to listen to is the studio version when they break into the synth section in the middle of the song. That starts at the 3min 18sec point:

Just listen to it as they pushed the sound back and forth. I honestly think that if they had the capacity to do something in surround sound it would have been even more awesome.

Anyway, thanks for the awesome monthly words of goodness! I believe that a lot of those old analog days have some very good lessons that can be learned and used in music being made nowadays.
That is what always made the Grateful Dead shows so good for me. I was a lot younger then and as music of the 80's evolved, I just quit listening as it seemed as though there was so much to catch visually and I was just not going to watch some guy with spandex pants and eye makeup try to be special.

I've always keep my eyes shut... :bravo:

[ Post last edited on 09/02/2017 at 16:09:40 ]

I guess it's fair to say it's real 'ear-opening' experience hehe